Friday, January 20, 2012

Iran, Israel, and Nuclear Weapons

At Opinio Juris, Kevin Jon Heller writes:

“It’s difficult to accuse these guys of being soft on Tehran, so it’s hard to quibble with their conclusion:

The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week to Dempsey indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb.

The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon – or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile. Nor is it clear when Iran might make such a decision.

This statement simply reinforces my argument that killing the Iranian nuclear scientists was an act of terrorism under the Terrorist Bombing Convention. Although I think killing the scientists would have been illegal under IHRL [International Human Rights Law] even if they had been helping to build a nuclear weapon, given that by all accounts it still would have taken Iran years to complete it, the counterargument wouldn’t be completely unreasonable. But If Iran is not even trying to build a weapon at this point, as Israel has apparently concluded, it is simply impossible to argue that killing the scientists was lawful targeted killing under IHRL.”

My comment: And now we can move on to a discussion of Israel—alongside India and Pakistan—having never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Israel alone among nuclear-weapons states having never publicly acknowledged their nuclear arsenal nor openly demonstrated their nuclear capability. As Avner Cohen writes in The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb (2010), “In Israel, to this day, the gap between nuclear conduct and basic democratic norms of open debate, the public’s right to know, public accountability, oversight, and transparency remains vast.”


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